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Tuesday April 24 11:06 AM ET
Federal Panel: No Link Between MMR Shot and Autism
WASHINGTON (Reuters Health) - A federal expert committee said Monday it has concluded there is no link between the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) combination vaccine and autism. Parents should not stop vaccinating their children, and there should be no change in federal or state MMR recommendations, the committee said. ``No vaccine is 100% safe,'' said Marie McCormick, chair of Harvard Public Health School's Maternal and Child Health department and chair of the federal Committee on Immunization Safety Review. But she said, the MMR vaccine ``is as safe as a vaccine can get.''
The 15-member panel, convened by the prestigious Institute of Medicine (IOM), did leave open the possibility that the vaccine might in rare cases cause autism, based on early research showing a potential link between the measles virus and the developmental disorder. Autism is a neurological disorder that impairs language development and prevents patients from socializing normally. The biologic data are ``fragmentary,'' said McCormick, but down the road, studies might bear out the link. ``Because there is this beginning study that needs to be worked through, we left the door open,'' she said.
This is the first report issued by the committee, convened in January. The panel will look at nine vaccine safety issues over the next 2 years. Panel members, including epidemiologists, pediatricians, biostatisticians, and public health experts, were strictly chosen to not have any ties to the vaccine industry. The MMR report was in response to growing public concerns that the vaccine might be causing autism or autistic-like symptoms. There has been a rise in the number of reported autism cases, noted McCormick. Autistic-like syndromes first appear around age 2, the same time the MMR is first given, which further muddies the waters. Public concern was heightened by a 1998 report in the journal The Lancet. A small number of children referred to a British researcher for bowel problems also exhibited autism-like symptoms that parents linked to MMR vaccination. The researcher did not make the same link, but the observation raised eyebrows. The IOM panel said The Lancet report was too limited to either disprove or prove a vaccine-autism link. In addition to The Lancet study, committee members reviewed all available epidemiological, animal and human trials that might be suggestive of MMR causing autism.
The panel also interviewed parents of children with autism, vaccine safety advocates, and held a scientific meeting with American and British researchers. Finally, the panel commissioned its own epidemiological study, which did not result in any positive findings. But panel member Steven Goodman, a pediatrician and biostatistician from Johns Hopkins University, noted that most of the published studies were not designed to look for rare side effects. The committee said future research could be made stronger by trying to focus on children who might be at high risk for developing autism. Panelists also said the government should more clearly communicate risks and benefits of MMR vaccination.
E-NEWS FROM THE NATIONAL VACCINE INFORMATION CENTER
"Protecting the health and informed consent rights of children since 1982." Contact: 703-938-0342
For immediate release
April 24, 2001
LEADING VACCINE SAFETY GROUP QUESTIONS INTERPRETATION OF IOM REPORT ON AUTISM AND MMR VACCINE
The National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC), a non-profit organization representing families with vaccine injured children have endorsed some of the conclusions of the report released yesterday by the newly created Institute of Medicine (IOM) Immunization Review Committee on the hypothesized link between MMR vaccine and autism. But the nation's largest and oldest vaccine safety and informed consent advocacy group is questioning whether misinterpretation and misuse of the Committee's conclusions will compromise public health agency commitment to funding vaccine safety research.
The Institute of Medicine Committee concluded that "the evidence favors rejection of the causal relationship at the population level between MMR vaccine and autistic spectrum disorders" but also stated that "the proposed biological models linking MMR vaccination to autism spectrum disorders, although far from established, are nevertheless not disproved." The Committee also called for further scientific research on the occurrence of autism in children following MMR vaccination.
"The Committee clearly acknowledged the biologic plausibility that MMR vaccine could be a co-factor in causing autism in some children. But the message this report may send out, in practical terms, is that there is absolutely no association between vaccination and autism and that the case is closed. It can be used by those in industry, government and medical organizations with a vested interest in protecting the status quo." said NVIC co-founder and president Barbara Loe Fisher. "This would be tragic because it could fatally compromise the making of vaccine safety research a priority in our society and delay the search for identification of biological markers that could predict which children are more vulnerable to vaccine-induced neuroimmune dysfunction that can, in some, take the form of autism."
NVIC has long advocated that scientific research into vaccine-associated autism, learning disabilities, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, asthma, and other chronic neuroimmune disorders explore the cumulative effects of multiple vaccines in genetically susceptible children. In the
past 30 years, as vaccine recommendations have increased routine childhood vaccinations to 37 doses of 11 different vaccines, there has been a dramatic rise in the numbers of chronically ill children in the US, including a doubling of those with learning disabilities, asthma, ADHD and diabetes. Autism is now affecting 1 in 150 children. "The conclusion of the IOM Committee that current scientific evidence favors rejection of a causal association between autism and MMR vaccine should not be taken out of context. There has been limited scientific research to date to investigate the relationship between vaccination and autism and until a more rigorous examination is conducted, the case is open, not closed," said Fisher.
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